Prime Minister Donald Tusk (left) and President Andrzej Duda (center) at a cabinet council meeting Tuesday
Prime Minister Donald Tusk (left) and President Andrzej Duda (center) at a cabinet council meeting Tuesday. Image: Facebook

Polish PM says previous ruling party used Pegasus spyware against ‘very long’ list of victims

Poland’s new prime minister said Tuesday that he has uncovered documents which “confirm 100%” that the prior administration illegally deployed Pegasus spyware, according to local news reports.

Donald Tusk, who became prime minister in December, said he can prove that state authorities used the powerful spyware to track a “very long” list of targets.

The allegations were announced at a briefing with President Andrzej Duda, the country’s new president. Duda was a political opponent of the prior administration.

In September, Poland’s Senate announced that a commission probing whether Pegasus had been used in 2019 to hack an opposition politician showed "gross violations of constitutional standards.”

Senate investigators said the country’s 2019 elections were unfair because of the deployment of Pegasus, which is sold to governments worldwide by the Israel-based NSO Group.

The Senate commission recommended potential criminal charges to prosecutors at the conclusion of the September probe. The chairman of the investigating committee said at the time that he could “unequivocally state that Pegasus was used in Poland to an extremely aggressive degree.”

Poland is far from the only European democracy where government leaders have been found to have used advanced commercial spyware, including Pegasus, to spy on activists, opposition leaders, and journalists.

Spain, Greece, and Hungary also have deployed spyware in recent years.

The prime minister’s comments came at a meeting of Poland’s Cabinet Council, a regular forum where the president meets with other members of the government. Duda has not made any public comments in response to Tusk’s allegations.

Tusk called the findings he shared with the country’s justice minister and prosecutor general “only a sample” of available documents.

“The list of victims of these practices is unfortunately very long,” said Tusk, who has not publicly released the victims’ names.

John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, which discovered the use of Pegasus in Poland, said Tusk's statement “validates what Pegasus victims have been saying for years, and what our forensic analysis confirmed: Europe has a commercial spyware problem that threatens democratic processes like fair elections.”

He added that he believes the Polish investigation “promises to be the beginning of a new chapter for spyware accountability in the EU.”

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Suzanne Smalley

Suzanne Smalley

is a reporter covering privacy, disinformation and cybersecurity policy for The Record. She was previously a cybersecurity reporter at CyberScoop and Reuters. Earlier in her career Suzanne covered the Boston Police Department for the Boston Globe and two presidential campaign cycles for Newsweek. She lives in Washington with her husband and three children.